I study historical swordfighting. Specifically, early 17th century Italian rapier. As part of the martial art, I travel to weekend events with tournaments, classes, and sparring. At one event I went to, I was free sparring. This is where I would challenge someone who wasn’t fighting to a few bouts.
Before we started sparring, one opponent asked me a question: what I would like her to bring into the fight. I asked her to bring her best, I had traveled all this way to fight the best. After she trounced me in the first two passes, she again asked me what I wanted. Here, she shifted from her best as a combatant to her best as a teacher. We spent the remaining time working on my form and technique. I won a tournament that day. But I remember more about her question.
Which best you need to bring depends on situation:
- My best as an opponent.
- My best as a warm-up partner.
- My best as a coach.
- My best for a sprint is different than my best for a marathon.
- My best for a single bout is different than for a gauntlet of 50 fights.
What if I don’t know what best to bring? I ask. If that fails, I’ll pick one. It trains my judgment for picking the right best.
- As an opponent, I might only focus on how to defeat them, zoning out all information that isn’t related to my fight.
- As a warm-up partner, I might push their energy level higher and put more variation into how I fence.
- As a coach, I might focus my attention on my opponent, allowing me to give them an analysis once fighting concludes.
Where am I not bringing my best? Which best do I need to bring?